Stylistic Analysis of Opening Paragraph of Black Men and Public Space by Brent Staples

1414 Words6 Pages
Johanna Schiereck
Dr. Suzanne Scott
English 225
11 April 2013
Uninflammatory Distance
My first victim was a woman – white, well dressed, probably in her early twenties. I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park, a relatively affluent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago. As I swung onto the avenue behind her, there seemed to be a discreet, uninflammatory distance between us. Not so. She cast back a worried glance. To her, the youngish black man – a broad six feet two inches with a bear and billowing hair, both hands shoved into the pockets of a bulky military jacket – seemed menacingly close. After a few more quick glimpses, she picked up her pace and was soon running in earnest.
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In this parallel structure the shorter words in the sentences are used to describe an action in the story; ‘‘I came upon,’’ ‘‘I swung onto.’’ On the other hand, Staples uses the longer, describing words, to define the situation; ‘‘relatively,’’ ‘‘uninflammatory.’’ Looking at the paragraph as a whole the first and second sentences together are used to describe the current situation – frozen – from the third sentence and onwards an ongoing storyline starts. In the third sentence the reader will come to an abrupt stop after reading the word ‘‘uninflammatory’’ (mentioned above); maybe even look it up in a dictionary. The word ‘‘inflammatory’’ normally uses the prefix ‘‘non-.’’ Staples has chosen to use the prefix ‘‘un-’’ instead, making this word nonexistent in the English language. However, our creative subconscious knowledge of grammar will match the commonly used prefix ‘‘un-,’’ of which we know its purpose is to give the attached morpheme a negative meaning, with ‘‘inflammatory’’ in the same way our brain would match ‘‘inflammatory’’ with ‘‘non-,’’ which explains why even though we have never seen this word before

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